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The other COVID-19 problem: Stress and anxiety are on the rise, data shows

Even for those who have avoided becoming infected with the virus, stress and anxiety levels are high.

GEORGETOWN, Texas — Williamson County officials announced Monday that there has been a significant increase in mental health calls to the county’s Mobile Outreach Team, with twice as many in June 2020 compared to the year before.

The team, which is under the direction of Emergency Medical Services, focuses on responding to mental health emergencies.

“We’re having a lot of calls about family conflict, people struggling with isolation during the pandemic and we’ve also [seen] an increase of people abusing opioids, mainly back in April,” said Annie Burwell, the Mobile Outreach Team's director. “Financial stress has also caused a lot of problems.”

Williamson County is not alone. Reports of anxiety and mental health crises brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak are affecting more Americans as the pandemic lingers.

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A recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation revealed that almost half of women (46%) and a third of men say the threat of the coronavirus has played a negative role in their mental health.  And a survey of college students by the Healthy Minds Network reported 66% of college students said that the pandemic had caused them more financial stress. The survey also found that the prevalence of depression among students has increased since the pandemic caused campuses to close.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers recommendations on how to handle the stress caused by the pandemic. These include:

  • Make time to unwind. Try to do some activities you enjoy.
  • Talk with people you trust about your concerns and how you are feeling.
  • Connect with your community or faith-based organizations online, through social media or by phone.

“It’s also very good to exercise, to drink plenty of water, to get enough sleep, even to just stop and take a deep breath when you’re feeling stressed,” Burwell said. “They’re simple things to do, but we don’t often think about doing them when we’re afraid and under stress.”

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